County waives garbage collection fee for churches

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A little known provision of Camden County's garbage contract offers free curbside collection service to any church in the unincorporated area that can provide proof of its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.  At a Sept. 1 meeting, county staff brought that provision to the attention of the Camden...

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A little known provision of Camden County's garbage contract offers free curbside collection service to any church in the unincorporated area that can provide proof of its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. 

At a Sept. 1 meeting, county staff brought that provision to the attention of the Camden County Board of Commissioners, stating that board approval of the fee exemption previously had been “unintentionally overlooked.” 

In fact, no churches had been presented to the board in the first three years of its five-year contract with Advanced Disposal, presumably because churches did not realize that exemption was available to them. 

“Advanced is still billing us because we don’t have any churches that qualified before tonight,” said board chair and District 3 commissioner Jimmy Starline. 

District 4 commissioner Gary Blount clarified that the garbage company would be the one to shoulder the financial burden of providing the fee exemption. 

Commissioners approved applications for two local churches — Satilla Church of God, 3R Fish Camp Road, White Oak, and Woodbine Church of God, Billyville Road, Woodbine — that had recently learned about the exemption and applied. A third application for Lakewood Baptist, Colerain Road, St. Marys, is also pending receipt of the church’s nonprofit status. 

Per Article 7, 1A; 2(b) of the contract between Advanced Disposal (contractor) and Camden County, “Contractor shall provide the weekly collection service for the following at no additional cost … (b) non-profit houses of worship, once the services herein have been requested and proof of non-profit status has been provided and approved for service by the board.”

Commissioners approved the waiving of fees for churches in their roles as the Camden County Solid Waste Authority and then they approved the authority recommendation a second time during the regular commissioners’ meeting. 

Although the vote was unanimous in favor of waiving the fee, Starline said he personally did not see the basis for extending an exemption for services that had a direct cost. Someone has to bear that cost, he said. If a large group of customers are suddenly not paying, then commissioners discussed whether that could mean higher costs for remaining customers — if not now, then in the future. 

St. Marys citizen John Burleson, who is the District 4 appointee to the Camden County Board of Tax Assessors, was the only citizen to speak on the issue during the public comments portion of the meeting. He opposed waiving garbage fees for churches. 

“I propose starting my own 501(c)(3) church and instead of passing the collection plate, I would encourage all of the parishioners to bring in their garbage and we can have it taken out for free,” he said. “Now we only have to pay for water and not the other half.”

After the vote, he spoke again, urging commissioners to reconsider their unanimous vote. 

Burleson said, “I would just like you to revisit the trash issue before we start seeing signs that say ‘Bring no cash, just bring your trash.’”